Biomarker NTRK Coverage from Every Angle

Head and Neck Cancer in Chinese Patients: Focus on NTRK Aberrations

By: Joshua Swore
Posted: Wednesday, September 8, 2021

The prevalence of NTRK aberrations was found to be more common in Chinese populations with head and neck cancer compared with The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) database, according to a publication in Oral Oncology. “This study was inspired by the outcome benefit of a parotid cancer patient harboring ETV6-NTRK3 fusion, who received crizotinib treatment and achieved a 2-year progression-free survival,” stated Lianke Liu, MD, of Nanjing Medical University, China and colleagues. “As NTRK genetic aberrations are more common in this Chinese population, the efficacy of NTRK inhibitors should be studied further.”

The retrospective study included 127 patients with head and neck cancers. Patient biopsies and peripheral blood samples were evaluated using next-generation sequencing, and results were compared with data from patients in TCGA.  

Sequencing results revealed that TP53 is the most frequently mutated gene within both the study cohort (43.3%) and TCGA (68.4%). Other common mutations among the study cohort included CDKN2A (18.9%), MLL2 (13.4%), LRP1B (11.0%), and TERT (11.0%). Further analysis uncovered a higher incidence of NTRK genetic aberrations within the study (7.9%) than in the TCGA database.

NTRK gene fusion was identified in four of the study patients, with ETV6-NTRK3 fusion occurring in three study patients. In contrast, the authors noted that two gene fusions were found in TCGA. The research group further reported that NTRK fusion was associated with a lower tumor mutation burden, whereas TP53 and LRP1B gene mutations significantly increased tumor mutation burden.

The authors acknowledged the study’s limitations, including potential sample size bias and the retrospective nature of the analysis. However, they added, “the current study provided a genomic landscape of NTRK alterations in head and neck cancers in a Chinese population.” In addition, some patients with this type of cancer may benefit from therapeutic strategies targeting such NTRK genetic aberrations.

Disclosure: The study authors reported no conflicts of interest.

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